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SD Department of Education December 2014  
 

 

TEACHER FEATURE

Story revised Dec. 19, 2014

Kelly Stone receives 2014 Governor’s Award in Transition Services

Kelly Stone is a special education teacher at Vermillion High School. She recently received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Transition Services. Congratulations, Kelly!

What do you like about working with special education students?
Weaknesses are how students qualify for special education, but that’s not all they are. I like to identify their strengths, because their strengths help them with their weaknesses. It’s important to help them realize that, too. They might feel like they’re not succeeding; you have to help them see how they are succeeding, and to be proud of that.

How do you help students with transition in the classroom?
We work on job skills and social skills. SDMyLife is a valuable resource in the process.

I also use a simulation program called, “You’re On Your Own.” Essentially, I tell students, “Here’s $1,200. You’re graduating. You’ve got to get a job, find a place to live. How are you going to do it?”

How do you guide your students through transition?
Some students might want a job, some might want to try college, some want to volunteer, some want independent living. It’s trying to help them find all the supports.

They don’t necessarily come to school full-time. Part of their day could be spent in school, part at a job. They might spend some time at home with someone helping them gain independent living skills. Many of my students spend time at SESDAC, Inc., an organization here in Vermillion that provides a variety of services and supports for people with disabilities.

Why are transition services important?
I think of when my own children were in high school. Two of them had no idea what they wanted to do, right up to their senior year. And they were in regular education. With special education students, it takes that much longer.

I think it’s hard for families, too. A lot of my students have been on IEPs since they were quite young, so the question for parents becomes, who’s going to provide these services now that my child is getting older? So my goal in working with students and families is to identify what we can do, how we can do it.

How do you arrange work experiences for your students?
I’ve been very proud of Vermillion employers’ willingness to offer opportunities through Project Skills, a program administered through the Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services. I have several students involved in this program right now. A wide variety of businesses have participated over the years—manufacturers, daycares, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, the food service company at USD and others. Sometimes this program leads to permanent employment, and it's always a celebration when that happens.

My students also deliver the food bags every week for our district’s backpack program and they help with our school’s recycling program.

We have strong CTE courses, too. Once students complete some of these classes, they can apply for a job at Builder’s Choice here in Vermillion.

So, it’s trying to find all we can, use all we can, to give them valuable experiences that are meaningful to them in making that next step.

 
 
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